Groundhog Day: the fine line between breezy comedy and cosmic horror

Jonah Goldberg’s perennial “Groundhog Day” column at National Review makes the case for Bill Murray’s movie as one of the great moral fables of the modern era.  It’s become a staple on top-20-of-all-time comedy lists.  But it might just also be a good example of cosmic horror… depending on how long you think Bill Murray’s character was stuck in that time loop.

A while back, director Harold Ramis offered his opinion that it takes Murray’s character about ten years of repeating Groundhog Day before he gets everything right and escapes the loop.  Film-geek bloggers dug into the clues presented during the film and tried to calculate the total duration of the loop more precisely, coming with extremely detailed estimates that ranged from a little over 8 years at minimum, to an even more amazingly detailed subsequent analysis that concluded it must have been at least 34 years.  

One of the great unknown variables is the length of time it took the main character to perfect the various skills he displays throughout the film, to the point where he could retain comfortable mastery of all of them.  His willingness to dedicate himself totally to the practice required would be a big factor in how much time ultimately elapsed.  If he’s prone to the same bouts of sloth that I am, he might have been stuck in that loop for a thousand years or more.  At minimum, this would probably mess him up enough to induce paranoid fits every time he felt a passing sense of deja vu, for the rest of his life.  At worst, he might have gone looking for his own copy of the Necronomicon after the credits rolled.